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The Gardner News
Greater Gardner digs out after Nor'easter brings two feet of snow
By Stephen Landry, Gardner News,
GARDNER ― A late-winter Nor’easter that dumped around two feet of snow across much of Greater Gardner downed tree limbs and power lines, left thousands of residents without power, and forced schools to cancel classes for a second day.
Officials warned that gusty winds on Wednesday along with a few lingering flurries would make for dangerous driving conditions and increase the chances that the heavy, wet snow could cause more tree limbs and power lines to fall.
Greater Gardner was certainly in the “jackpot zone” when it came to snowfall. By the time the storm was winding down, 32 inches of snow had fallen in Hubbardston, while 26 inches covered the community of Ashburnham. Gardner received an even two feet, while residents in Templeton and Westminster woke up to 23 inches of snow.
Residents in Templeton saw differing snow totals depending on which part of town they were in, according to Bob Szocik, director of the Department of Public Works.
"In Baldwinville I measured 19 inches, and in East Templeton I measured 20 inches," he said.
Nearly half of Hubbardston was without power at one point during the storm, according to Police Chief Ryan Couture.
"We had extra patrol officers on to respond to calls for service, if needed," Couture explained. "We were fortunate enough that we were not needed at residences for emergencies. There were no vehicle crashes that were reported to us."
Couture said his department received numerous calls for downed trees that were blocking roads and caught up in wires.
"As of this morning, National Grid and contractors hired by National Grid were just getting to a few areas in town. Cross Road at the intersection of New Templeton Road was still closed as of 9 a.m. due to a large tree down and entangled in wires," he explained. "There are other small sections of town without power due to lines down, with crews just getting to them this morning, as well."
Couture acknowledged the efforts of the town's DPW crews throughout the duration of the storm.
"Looking at how much snow we got compared to other towns in the area, I would say that most of our roads are in very good shape," he said, adding that it had been a while since he had seen a similar snowstorm hit the area. "It was like that Halloween storm we had years ago and the ice storm of 2008 mixed into one."
Gardner Mayor Michael Nicholson said he was proud of how the city's DPW crews handled the Nor'easter.
"Gardner hasn't seen a snowstorm of this size in a couple of decades, and they did everything they could to keep the roads safe and clear," Nicholson said. "I really can't thank them enough for the great work they provide their city, and it was really neat to be able to join them (Tuesday) morning to see firsthand how they operate during snowstorms and the issues they have to deal with."
In Westminster, Acting Police Chief Jason Tamulen said emergency officials had responded to over 100 storm-related calls, including downed power lines and vehicular accidents.
"We dealt with multiple tractor trailer trucks being stuck due to snow all over the place," Tamulen said. "One took down electrical lines on Worcester Rd., which crews began repairing this morning, and which accounts for a good portion of our current electrical outage."
Over 300 residents in Westminster remained without power as of 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, Tamulen said.
"It has been a long couple of days for all of us but especially for the Public Works Department and National Grid workers who are still working to make repairs," he added. "I honestly cannot remember the last storm where we received so much snow in such a short time."
"It looks like rain is forecasted as well over the next few days which will bring flooding issues now that all of the drains are covered in snow," Tamulen added.
Many residents were taken by surprise by the amount of snowfall, with several taking to social media in search of someone willing to plow their driveways and free their vehicles.
Power outages, warming centers and postponements
With residents still digging out on Wednesday, officials announced that the 2023 Greater Gardner Health and Wellness Fair at City Hall would be postponed to a later date.
In Westminster, officials announced that the warming/charging center at the Public Safety Building at 7 South St. would be open to residents until 11 p.m. on Wednesday. By mid-morning, about 320 customers remained without power in the town, with extended outages expected, according to officials. Line crews were reporting significant damage to the electrical grid in some areas of the community.